Friday, May 2, 2008

Aquaman #40

Aquaman #40 (On Sale: May 2, 1968) features one of my favorite covers of all time by the great Nick Cardy. In The Art of Nick Cardy Nick says of this cover, "The 'S' shape of hair to Mera's head and title was the graceful feminine flow I wanted. The situations of the heroes provided the contrasting tension."

Over the next two years Cardy will do some of the most amazing comic covers ever on what is my favorite series of all time.

"Sorcerers of the Sea" is by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo but it is just not right to leave off editor Dick Giordano who orchestrated this series starting with this issue, for many of the books are credited to SAG (Skeates/Aparo/Giordano). This accreditation is most likely the work of letterer Aparo.

This book is a classic for a number of reasons: It marks the first real Dick Giordano book for DC, where we get to see his hand as an editor all over the product. It features the first Jim Aparo work at DC, a company he would work at for the rest of his life as one of their premiere artists. It has the first full script by Steve Skeates at DC. It redefines the character of Aquaman, giving him much more depth as he searches the seas for his kidnapped wife. Lastly, it begins a story arc that will run for the next year and a half, something DC rarely ever did.

Now for the details... Mera is kidnapped while Aquaman is caught in a whirlpool. He doesn't see the attackers, and his only clue is a ring worn by one of them. After the attack, Aquaman and Aqualad begin a search of the area where she was taken.

Aquaman finds an undersea city that shimmers in the distance. He sneaks into the city and believes he sees Mera acting as the queen of the people. He tries to force his way into the palace, but is captured. Aqualad is also injured in the process.

Aquaman escapes and takes Aqualad back to Atlantis for medical attention. He then returns to the city. This time despite the magic of the defending sorcerers, Aquaman makes his way to the queen's chambers. When he sees her, he realizes that her eyes are a different color than Mera's. She is not his wife, so he leaves the city determined to continue his quest to find Mera. Reprinted in Adventure Comics #491 and shamefully, nowhere else.

One of the joys of this series is watching Jim Aparo morph into this amazing artist. In this first few issues his Aquaman is kind of blocky and stocky but within a year he will become this lithe, figure of rippling muscles that slices through the water with amazing grace and ease. Like I said, this is my favorite series of all time.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

3 comments:

Norman Boyd said...

Totally agree that the run of Aquaman Cardy covers were SUPERB! That's why I was always surprised the same guy churned out all the DC covers in the early 70s as they do not compare to the richness of this. But Nick - we love you all the the same!

Dave Potts said...

Barry, I agree with you whole-heartedly about the excellence of the Skeates-Aparo-Giordano Aquaman series, and about Nick Cardy's covers during this period. They were simply amazing. What makes this series even more remarkable is the contrast between this run and what had come before on the title. Prior to this, it had been one of the lamer, more juvenile of DC's books, with little to recommend it besides Cardy's artwork (which was always great, however lame the stories might have been). Then Dick Giordano took over, and it became one of the best comics on the market.

I'd just like to add that my copy of this issue is autographed by Cardy.

As for the difference between these covers and all those early 70s ones, when I got this comic (and several others) autographed by Cardy at a convention several years ago, I said to him how gorgeous I thought his covers from this period were, and he told me that Dick Giordano let him do whatever he wanted with the cover designs. I didn't ask him about the 70s covers, but I believe I read somewhere that those were all drawn following layouts by Carmine Infantino — a great artist himself, but whose aim, as publisher, was not to produce works of fine art for the covers, but to sell comics — and he may have been right that his designs were better at enticing kids to pick up the comics. (And those 70s covers weren't bad covers — I've never seen anything drawn by Cardy that was bad — they just weren't the masterpieces that the covers he drew for Giordano were.)

-Keller said...

And Dave that is why Giordano is my favorite editor, ever; he let the talent do what the talent did best and he was not at all afraid to take chances on new ideas. Plus, he did one other thing, in my opinion, better than any other editor: he cared deeply about the product he was putting out and he was able to communicate that to the reader better than other editors.

I know I am in the minority here, but when I started reading Marvel comics, I never got the "warm fuzzy" feeling for Stan Lee that others got. I never felt I was part of a special group, I never felt Stan was "one of us" or particularly "hip." I thought his spiel was forced, fraudulent and condescending, like a carnival huckster saying whatever it took to get you to buy a ticket to see the freak show. I just never bought into it.

One the other hand, Dick Giordano, in his letter pages, was a friend to the reader. He listened to what we said and even if he disagreed, he did so with respect for the reader. It never, ever felt forced or fraudulent and he never talked down to us. A Dick Giordano comic was a warm and cozy place I could go in my teen years, and as much as I love his artwork, it was a sad day for me when he first walked away from editing at DC. It felt like I was losing a friend.

And of all the books he edited at DC, this was my favorite, where even silly throw-away characters like Aquagirl became interesting and where being the King of Atlantis took on a whole new set of problems.